Mezritch Synagogue © LuciaM via Panoramio
At the turn of the century, the Lower East Side/East Village was home to 75 percent of the 2.5 million Ashkenazi Jews that immigrated to the U.S. They quickly established synagogues, many of which were “tenement synagogues,” aptly named because they were built on the narrow lots between tenements and served the mostly-impoverished people who lived in the surrounding, overcrowded buildings. Only one of these tenement synagogues is still in operation–the Congregation Meseritz Synagogue (or Anshei Meseritz) at 515 East 6th Street.
Narrowly saved from the wrecking ball in 2012, Meseritz is now undergoing a total overhaul. Real estate developer East River Partners is adding three luxury apartments, including an 11-foot-tall penthouse, to the top of the structure. Though the plan was initially contested by some neighbors and local community and preservation groups, the developer is undertaking a multimillion-dollar gut renovation of the ground floor, creating a new home out of which the congregation can worship.